By Tris Wykes
Copyright Octopus Athletics 2021
HANOVER – Patrick Elder raised the black and silver sledgehammer over his head and screamed to his encircled Hanover High football teammates Friday night.
“Did we pound the rock?!” the junior lineman asked, repeatedly slamming the hammer into the artificial turf beneath his cleats. The Marauders roared affirmation and after a few rounds of such call-and-response, closed together in a jumping, shouting mass, celebrating their 41-8 defeat of John Stark.
Events were considerably more subdued on the opposite end of Merriman-Branch Field. The visiting Generals (1-3) are rebuilding under new coach Ray Kershaw, who took Mascoma to an NHIAA title game nine years ago and is in his first year with John Stark program after taking Newfound to the semifinals three years back.
Hanover (4-0) rolled up 171 rushing yards during the first half, after which it led, 27-0. The Marauders allowed their foes only 24 yards on the ground before intermission and scored on their first two possessions of the second half, after which the contest essentially devolved into a JV scrimmage.
“We put an emphasis on working our butts off during the offseason,” said Elder, whose team scored on its first six possessions. “Our season so far proves that we’ve pulled off what we wanted to accomplish.”
Hanover’s players began lifting weights and performing conditioning drills a week after their 2020 season ended with a playoff loss to arch-rival Lebanon. A new weight room was being built, so coach Sam Cavallaro had his troops lug the equipment outside for use in the snow. The iron and its racks were crammed into the press box’s ground floor when not used.
“This team has worked ridiculously hard, through Covid and wearing masks,” Cavallaro said, leaning on the hammer’s handle after collecting it from Elder. “I had to come up with something that signified our identity. These guys are humble and they don’t care which ones do well.”
Friday, it was senior quarterback Colin Pierce who stepped into the spotlight, completing all four pass attempts for 48 yards and three touchdowns. Two went to junior receiver Brendan Logan and the other to classmate and running back Jeffrey Vidou. It was the Marauders’ ground game, however, that made their air strikes so devastating.
Seamus Murphy, Hanover’s wiry strong senior, bulled and fought his way to 115 yards in 14 carries and scored on a 12-yard run. Vidou ran five times for 47 yards, including a 16-yard score. Logan, also a star lacrosse player, caught four passes for 46 yards.
Thinking back three years, to when Hanover went 0-9, Elder and Cavallaro recalled a season when their team took repeated poundings instead of dishing them out. The 2019 Marauders featured four seniors, none of them impact players, and was outscored, 322-86. John Stark won the teams’ meeting that fall, 26-7.
“Honestly, it was scary for me,” said Elder, whose father, Glenn, was a Hanover lineman during the 1980s. “I was a smaller guy then and I wasn’t ready. I had a concussion first and then a broken leg.”
Said Cavallaro: “It was a brutal season because you went into games knowing you were going to get physically beaten. Our freshmen got pounded and they knew they didn’t want that to happen to them again.”
Hanover received the opening kickoff and following two Murphy carries for a combined 26 yards, scored on an 18-yard pass from Pierce to Logan. The latter booted the extra point for a 7-0 lead just 1 minute, 28 seconds into the game.
The hosts doubled their lead the next time they had the ball. Five running plays led to an 8-yard touchdown pass from Pierce to Vidou and Logan again made the conversion kick. The Marauders’ third drive covered 71 yards in 11 plays and concluded when Murphy bolted 12 yards up the middle and into the end zone. Logan’s kick made the score 21-0 with 8:18 remaining in the first quarter.
John Stark turned the ball over on down for the second time in three possessions and Hanover needed only three plays to go up, 27-0. Pierce hit Logan again, this time for a 12-yard touchdown. The conversion kick attempt failed when the ball was snapped over the holder’s head.
The Generals punted after receiving the second-half kickoff and Pierce returned the ball 30 yards. Two plays later, Vidou swept left for a 16-yard touchdown. John Stark lost a fumble on its next possession and Hanover lineman Cam Bonner, inserted at running back, ran 52 yards for a touchdown that ended all pretense of a competitive contest.
Although Pierce’s statistics drew the eye Friday, he split time as he has so far this season with junior Roger Lucas, a tactic Cavallaro said is used with an eye to readying the younger player for next season. Pierce, who starts and safety and is projected to play that position in college, moves to wing back on offense when Lucas enters as signal caller.
“You can play 11 and when someone gets hurt, you have a week to bring someone else up to speed,” Cavallaro said. “But if anything happens to Colin, Roger’s ready. We try to do that with all of our positions, although there are some kids who we don’t sub for.”
Hanover visits Sanborn (1-2) on Oct. 2.
Notes: Logan hauled in what appeared to be a 39-yard touchdown pass from Lucas during the first quarter, but a holding penalty nullified the play… John Stark used what appeared to be pickle ball paddles painted in various colors to signal in plays… Marauders freshman Beckett Sobel, son of Hanover athletic director Megan Sobel and football assistant coach David Sobel, began the game running on to the field to retrieve the kickoff tee but entered the action in the late going and made a tackle… Cavallaro said Pierce has an offer to join the football team at Iowa’s Grinnell College next year and has drawn interest from Union, Bowdoin and the University of Rochester (N.Y.)… Rumors grow stronger that the NHIAA will expand the number of football divisions by the start of next season… Merriman-Branch Field featured new goal-post pads with the school’s name and colors but no Marauder head on them. The school is plodding through a process to replace the longtime nickname and logo.
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